Quotes on Game Design

Opinionated quotations from the famous and not-so-famous.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (I get commissions for purchases made through certain links on this page.)

Page Table of Contents


Give Joy to the World

The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.

Robert Baden-Powell

I had no special training at all; I am completely self taught. I don't fit the mold of a visual arts designer or a graphic designer. I just had a strong concept about what a game designer is. Someone who designs projects to make people happy. That's a game designer's purpose.

Toru Iwatani

From the book Programmers at Work by Susan Lammers

To me games have an extremely great and still unrealized potential to influence man. I want to bring joy and excitement to people's lives in my games, while at the same time communicate aspects of this journey of life we are all going through. Games have a larger potential for this than linear movies or any other form of media.

Philip Price from a Halcyon Days interview

Why should you make games? Do it to give players joy from your unique perspective and to have fun expressing yourself. You win and the players win.

Duane Alan Hahn

The successful people are the ones who can think up things for the rest of the world to keep busy at.

Don Marquis

Use those talents you have. You will make it. You will give joy to the world. Take this tip from nature: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.

Bernard Meltzer

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only a little. Do what you can.

Sydney Smith

Even though I enjoyed the challenge of programming, ultimately the motivation was the fans, the gamers themselves. I kept asking myself, "Is that guy enjoying the game?" In those early days we got fan mail all the time.

Bob Whitehead (adapted)

You have to measure your success by the way your audience responds to your games. No matter how small that audience is, it's yours. Your game is part of the lives and the memories of those people in a way that WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3 or Windows can never be.

Orson Scott Card

Compute Magazine, October 1992

"The player is paramount" is a phrase all game developers should remember. Great game designers have a certain amount of love or respect for their players. If you're not helping your players feel happy and fulfilled in some way, then you shouldn't be making games at all. Don't make games just to express yourself or to impress other game designers or programmers. Think about the players too. If you make games that are fun and satisfying and put in the effort to add extra little touches, players will feel like you really care and they'll love how you went out of your way to delight them.

Duane Alan Hahn [Updated on January 24, 2013]

A long, long time agoI can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance and maybe they'd be happy for a while.

Part of the lyrics from the song “American Pie” by Don McLean

Too many games are made for the challenge of it, without seeming to care that much about players. Even though players are important, their reactions should only be taken as feedback you can use to make better games. Player comments shouldn't feed your ego or damage your self-esteem.

Duane Alan Hahn

I get to do something that millions of people across the world are going to see and enjoy and have fun with. People I'm never going to meet, people I'm never going to see, but when they finish their job tonight, they're going to be playing one of my games and that makes me feel good.

Pat Lawlor

Back to Top




Controlled Randomness, Replayability, and Freedom


Where My Interest in Randomness Started

Although I played board games that were soaked in randomness, my introduction to the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at Lakeside Amusement Park in Salem, Virginia, near Roanoke in the late 1960s made me consciously aware of the importance of controlled randomness. Then around late 1973 or early 1974, the next major influential encounter with randomness was provided by 'Rabbit' and Sandra, family friends we had when we lived in Georgetown, Illinois. I believe they lived in a trailer park in Danville. I don't remember much about them, but I do know that Sandra played some kind of women's basketball. Anyway, 'Rabbit' (Robert) had a horse racing record that Sandra let me play on their record player. A horse racing record? Wouldn't it be the same every time you played it? Isn't that how all records work? Not this record. It had a random outcome every time. It was amazing! It was similar to the following, but it didn't seem to be part of a game:


"They're At the Post" Horse Racing Game With Records


That random horse racing LP record was the last piece of the puzzle. From board games to the Tilt-A-Whirl to the horse racing record, it all combined to form a kind of philosophy in my mind about the importance of randomness. That's when my thoughts about randomness and replayability in video games were born.


I almost forgot to mention the cherry on top of it all. In the early 1980s, before I got an Atari 2600, a classroom at my high school had some #ad Choose Your Own Adventure books. I read every book they had at the time and that supercharged my thoughts about randomness, replayability, alternate paths, alternate endings, and anything to do with giving gamers more choices and more freedom in general.


Pages on Randomness

Replay Value (Wikipedia)

A a game with dynamic environments, challenging AI, a wide variety of ways to accomplish tasks, and a rich array of assets will keep a player coming back for more.


Nonlinear Gameplay (Wikipedia)

Presents players with challenges that can be completed in a number of different sequences.


Procedural Generation (Wikipedia)

Advantages of procedural generation include smaller file sizes, larger amounts of content, and randomness for less predictable gameplay.


Development of No Man's Sky (Wikipedia)

No Man's Sky is a procedurally generated open universe which contains over 18 quintillion planets, each having its own unique environment, flora, and fauna.


Channeled Chaos

Too much constriction in game design can be stifling. A game that is completely predictable isn't fun for long.


Replayability, Part One: Narrative

In principle, any game should be replayable.


Replayability Part Two: Game Mechanics

The casual gamer plays not for the exhilaration of victory, but for the joy of playing the game. . . one thing the casual gamer needs is variety. The game has to be different the next time she plays it.


Games, Randomness, and the Problem with Being Human

Similar to what's in the article, when I (Duane Alan Hahn) started making my own BASIC games in 1983, I always made sure that the same random thing couldn't happen twice in a row. Sometimes I'd look beyond that twice in a row to help avoid clumping even more (depending on the game). Speaking of randomness, I've been telling anyone who would listen about Controlled Randomness since the late 1980s.

Chicken Pot Pie (David Cross)

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.

Frederick Douglass

Players who want everything in games to be carved in stone will wildly flail their arms and scream about how controlled randomness would ruin everything. But that's only because they lack imagination. It's called controlled randomness because the programmer is controlling it. He or she can choose what things will use controlled randomness and what things will stay the same.

Duane Alan Hahn

In principle, any game should be replayable. If you went down to the toy store, bought a board game in a box for twenty or thirty dollars, and then came home to discover that you could only play it once, you would be rightfully wrathful. Yet, this happens fairly frequently with computer games, and our customers are more or less resigned to it. Replayability, however, is no accident: it's something we as designers can build in on purpose … if we want to.

#ad Ernest Adams from the article Replayability, Part One: Narrative

It's more work to use controlled randomness, but luckily for them, most game designers don't have to worry about it. A lot of players have been thoroughly brainwashed over the years into thinking that video games should be like the unchanging movies that they watch on the big screen.

Duane Alan Hahn

People who were alive and old enough to read back in the 1980s might remember that at least a couple magazine articles promised us that we'd have movies that were like a film version of #ad Choose Your Own Adventure books long before now. We went from the promise of that to people even hating the idea of controlled randomness, alternate branches, and alternate endings in video games. They want their movies to be carved in stone and they want their games to be the same way.

Duane Alan Hahn

Pinball is a good example of what makes a great game—a mixture of luck and skill. That's a very critical aspect. In the long run a more-skilled player will do better, but in the short run anyone should be able to win. There should be some randomness, which offer challenges over the game. When you get to games like Pac-Man or Mortal Kombat where there's a documentable sequence that you can execute to succeed, to me that's totally antithetical to what a game should be.

Howard Scott Warshaw from a Digital Press interview

The old #ad Choose Your Own Adventure books had many paths and around 40 different endings which is 39 more than most console games. Almost every type of console game could be improved if it had more choices and had alternate endings. More randomly placed objects, rooms, characters, bonus items, bonus areas, and so on wouldn't hurt either.

Duane Alan Hahn

I'm pretty damn sick and tired of all the patterns necessary to beat video games. I want a challenge, not a memory exercise. I got enough of that in history class back in school.

Joe Santulli from a Digital Press article

If you love to learn patterns and deadly perfect timing dance steps, games that use controlled randomness can still have those things. It's just that the patterns would change from game to game. Games that must stay the same until the player finishes can use a seed code (similar to games like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Slayer).

Duane Alan Hahn

I'm glad Tetris wasn't created like so many other games because the blocks would always fall in the same order and you wouldn't be able to turn them. There would be only one way you could finish a level and you'd have to play it over and over again until you got it right.

Duane Alan Hahn

I used the random object placement in level 3 for variety. I didn't want it to be like a puzzle, where once you've solved it, it's not very interesting to do it again, and I wanted to avoid that. The bat was also added as a confusion factor, to move objects around a bit, so that the game wasn't too predictable. (I did make a mistake in my random object placement code, and there is a 1 in 18 chance that the yellow key will start out in the yellow castle, making the game unwinnable. This only happens in level 3.)

As you may gather from the above, I think that randomness in a game is very strong medicine, and must be very carefully controlled.

Warren Robinett from a Good Deal Games interview


Some gamers are wannabe rock stars or think of themselves as unpaid professional music critics and they enjoy it when bands don't play a song exactly as it was recorded in the studio. They don't care if singers are off-key, they just want a song to sound different every time it's played live on stage. In other words, they want controlled randomness in their music. But these same people will scream and cry if you suggest that Controlled Randomness can be used to make video games more fun and interesting.

Duane Alan Hahn

One of my best tricks is to make every damn possible thing random. If something repeats (for example if your character looks left and right) don't make it ping-pong in perfect timing like a metronome. Always slip in randomness so that something that does repeat never looks the same twice. Nothing in your game should move to a "beat."

Dave Perry

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997

Many game designers think that replayability means adding a multiplayer feature.

Duane Alan Hahn

I could never understand the whole point of playing patterns. If all you're doing is memorizing a bunch of moves, why bother. That's not "playing", there's no skill involved. Might as well set up a machine or something to input the patterns for you and just sit back and watch for what it accomplishes.

Robert Klace

I was disappointed when I found out that Pac-Man had patterns you could learn. I wanted the ghosts to have a bit of randomness thrown in. They would still have their personalities, but you wouldn't be able to count on some stupid pattern to win. You'd actually have to play the game. Sure, the patterns can be ignored, but millions of people were trained that gaming was more about learning 'dance steps' and less about on-the-spot decision making and pure fun.

The public became used to games that were devoid of randomness where everything from bonus items to enemies were always in the same place. Level bosses with predetermined patterns to learn became the norm. Most people were brainwashed into believing that all games were supposed to be one-time static action puzzles to solve or a string of 'dance steps' to learn. It's as if they forgot all of those great board games they used to play that were full of randomness and replayability.

The reason I became interested in video games was because of all of the amazing possibilities. A computer is ideal for creating replayable games. If you want randomness, what could be better than a computer? You can go beyond anything that is possible with a board game, but that awesome potential is usually ignored or scoffingly dismissed.

Duane Alan Hahn

Although most games that have zero replay value are detestable, you can't have raw, unbridled randomness either since your games would be unplayable. Luckily, with Controlled Randomness, you can create replayable games while maintaining control. Controlled Randomness can help you make wonderful games where everything is where it should be, but players will have a fresh experience every time they play. There are many ways to use Controlled Randomness and there's no excuse not to use it with all of the resources we have today. It's just lazy programming if you don't.

Duane Alan Hahn

Some people say that games with Controlled Randomness don't really contain randomness because the positions have been predetermined. That makes no sense because it's common knowledge that card and dice games contain randomness and the number of cards and sides of each die have been predetermined. If you think of Controlled Randomness in that way, there should be no argument. The positions are still randomly selected from a list of possible choices, so predetermination does not cancel out randomness. Predetermination is an attempt to harness an awesome power for the sake of playability. With pure randomness, there is no playability and without Controlled Randomness, there is no replayability.

Duane Alan Hahn

I think a great example of the contrast in game design is Star Raiders vs. Wing Commander and all derivatives thereafter. Star Raiders randomizes the ships when you start out. Wing Commander and the like are scripted games. They have missions. Certain events within the missions must occur the same every time. As such, it limits replayability. It's just an exercise in beating a fixed scenario like the movie Groundhog Day where it's deja vu again and again.

I'm not saying some of those kinds of games can't be fun, but they don't hold your attention forever. For instance, Galaga is a great game but there is a lot hardcoded in it. I really like Rastan but everything that comes at you is predetermined. River Raid's only saving grace is that it goes on pretty much forever, and you can hack the game to start at a deeper level, almost simulating randomness. But today, most games are designed as disposable entertainment.

This is what the game industry wants, and it is what the consumer has already wholeheartedly accepted in the name of cinematic gaming. But I think something is lost along the way.

Glenn Saunders

Most video games are like toilet paper. Buy a game, use it once, then flush it. These Toilet Paper Games have zero replayability. From platform games to full-motion video games, it's been basically the same thing since the mid 1980s. Even in the early 1980s, Activision and other companies had the nasty habit of making many Atari 2600 games where everything was in the same place every time. Luckily, companies such as Atari and Imagic made some pretty good replayable games, so things weren't so bad, at least for a while.

Duane Alan Hahn

A lot of Toilet Paper Games seem like they are made by frustrated filmmaker wannabes. You can forget about randomness and replayability; they don't even want to make games. They want to make barely interactive films that are stuffed full of cut scenes. The more they make you just sit there and watch, the more they like it.

Duane Alan Hahn

If you belive in something; if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and don't get caught in defending yourself or feeling sorry for yourself or falling for the fear of what other people think of you because you're saying something that's different, then if you keep putting that one foot in front of the other, you get somewhere. It's when you stop that everything stops. If we believe in what we are saying and what we're saying has validity, then eventually it will be shown to be so. But that process only plays out if we keep walking.

You realize over time that whatever people are saying about you today, they'll say something else tomorrow, so don't get caught up in what they're saying today, whatever today is. The fear of what other people think is the state of percetion that stops people making a difference because you can only make a difference in a world of uniformity if you operate outside that uniformity and that's always going to get you laughter, ridicule, and condemnation. We either want to make a difference and we take that on, and say "whatever" or we don't, in which case nothing changes.

David Icke from The Lion Sleeps No More DVD Set (adapted)

Back to Top




Play vs. Competition


Cooperation Pages or Sites


Cooperation Books


Cooperative Board Games

Clearly competition and play tug in two different directions. If you are trying to win, you are not engaged in true play.

Adapted from #ad No Contest: The Case Against Competition by Alfie Kohn

A "cooperative game" is different. It does not have winners or losers—or rather, we all win or lose together. For instance, suppose a board game where the task is to scale an imaginary mountain. In a competitive game, each player would try and get to the top first, and the one who did would be the winner. In a cooperative game, the task is for the players to unite in a team to get to the top and return before their supplies run out. Unless we help each other, we perish together in the attempt.

Martin Hattersley

A generous helping of cheats in open world video games allow you to customize the experience you'd like to have according to your whims and that encourages genuine play. There is nothing to win, nothing to beat, no high score to reach. You just play. When you don't have to worry about scores, winning, or competition, you can have as much fun as your imagination will allow. A person who sees no value in 'cheating' has a barren, lifeless desert where his or her imagination should be.

Duane Alan Hahn

The principal difficulty with competitive games is that they prevent the players from developing a true sense of "connectedness" with each other. All human beings experience a need to belong, to be a part of, rather than apart from, the group. Feeling a part of a group is the first step in active participation.

Games are like a languagethey have incredible potential for helping people to make contact with one another, to connect with one another. Unfortunately, many traditional games lose out on this opportunityor even squelch itbecause they provoke competitive interaction among the players. Competition can lead to exclusion, the antithesis of connection, belonging, inclusion. Beyond that, competition can breed a "killer" instinct, destroying both confidence and community. Competitive structures and rules often seem to bring out the "worst" in people. . . it's a Dr. Jekyll/Tan Your Hide transformation. When we place more importance on rules than on people, we are in bondage to competition, and lose sight of our common human bonds.

From the book #ad Playfair by Matt Weinstein and Joel Goodman (page 24)

It is said that our leisure activities no longer give us a break from the alienating qualities of the work we do; instead, they have come to resemble that work.

The chief reason our recreation is like our work is that it has become more competitive. Sports, for example, have always been competitive and never really qualified as play in the first place. Although it's not generally acknowledged, most definitions of play do seem to exclude competitive activities.

In an experiment with five-and six-year olds, Janice Nelson and her associates found that "success as well as failure in competition produced consistent increases in aggression, as compared with the effects of noncompetitive play," although failure made the children more aggressive. Another study discovered that boys who won a subsequent competition were more aggressive than those who failed. Even winning is not enough to eradicate the frustrating elements of competition. The hostile act of competition, on the playing field and in other contexts, for both participants and spectators, leads us to become more aggressive.

Any activity whose goal is victory cannot be play, if you are trying to win, you are not engaged in true play.

Adapted from #ad No Contest: The Case Against Competition by Alfie Kohn

Play is to be played exactly because it isn't serious; it frees us from seriousness.


When a group of people get together to play, no matter how well-intentioned they may be at the start, they're probably going to wind up playing together the way that they've always been taught to play togethercompetitively and unsupportively, with a strong focus on individual heroics.

We believe that is not the natural way to playit's just the way that everybody has been taught to play. So if a group of people want to get together and play together in a noncompetitive and supportive way, first they're going to have to "learn" how to do it. And that means that someone is going to have to "teach" them how to do it. And that someone could be you.

From the book #ad Playfair by Matt Weinstein and Joel Goodman (page 21)

Most games, as they are played today, at best ignore the development of self-confidence, and at worst destroy self-confidence. There are too many people who do not feel good about themselves as playful people. Many people learn early in life that "to the victor belongs the spoils." Victory has become the dominating force in the way people playand for many people, it has spoiled play altogether. Vince Lombardi's popularization of the "winning is everything" philosophy has led to the emergence of winning as our new national religion. It's gotten to the point where Billy Martin, while managing the New York Yankees to the World Championship of professional baseball, declared "it's not how you winits just winning that is the name of the game."

Adapted from the book #ad Playfair by Matt Weinstein and Joel Goodman (page 22)

The noncompetitive approach to playing can "detoxify" some of these negative aspects of competitive group play. We want to help people feel good about themselves as they actively participate in their own recreation.

The noncompetitive approach to playing can "detoxify" some of these negative aspects of competitive group play. People can come to regard playfulness with celebration rather than distaste. Players who don't feel excluded and judged (judged that they ''fail,'' that is!) continue playing for the rest of their lives. We want to help people feel good about themselves as they actively participate in their own recreation. We hope to help channel our society's orientation from "instant replay" to "instant we-play"!

From the book #ad Playfair by Matt Weinstein and Joel Goodman (page 24)

Back to Top




Game Controls and Interface

Form follows function.

Louis Henri Sullivan

Don't ever take control away from the joypad/keyboard unless you really want to piss off the player.

Dave Perry

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997

Design a clear and simple interface. The primary task of the interface is to present the player with a choice of the available actions at each moment and to provide instant feedback when the player makes a choice.

Jordan Mechner

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997

Make the interaction natural, so you press the right key or move the joystick without even thinking.

Fernando Herrera

K-Power Magazine, April 1984

The simpler you can make the control of the game, the more playable it is.

Dave Jones

Compute Magazine, January 1992

When you press jump, make him jump. Fight animators or anyone else who tries to get you to do anything else. Instant response is key.

Dave Perry

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997

If a player has to take his mind off your game to think about the controls, the illusion is lost, concentration is broken, and you have lost your player.

Duane Alan Hahn

To me there are two kinds of impossible games. There's the kind where the skill level is just beyond my meager skills, and there's the kind that's artificially difficult because of bad design or controls.

Joe Santulli from Digital Press

Back to Top





Reading Comprehension (Richard Lavoie)

#ad Buy the full version at

Keep the rules of the game simple. Ideally, first-time players should understand and enjoy the game without instructions.

Mark Cerney

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997

People want to go back to a simpler time where you walked up, read two lines of instructions, and knew the game. People want clean, simple challenges, and are tired of the 45-move joystick/button combinations it takes to do a roundhouse kick.

Curt Vendel from Weekly Wire

I would say simplicity is a key factor in any good game design. Simplicity in interface, game systems, etc. Simplicity does not have to mean few possibilities (just look at chess), but creating a real good, well balanced, simple game system is a much harder task than creating a very complex one.

Thorolfur Beck from RPG Vault

2D graphics were getting better and clearer in the 1980s and then 3D games came along and took us back into the dark ages. Everything was blocky-looking again.

Now that 3D games are getting better looking, I wonder what new thing will knock the graphics back into the 1970s?

Duane Alan Hahn

The really blisteringly original games are incredibly simple.

Paul Reiche III

Compute Magazine, January 1992

I like games that are simple. Not games that are trivial, but also not games that require you to invest a week or to relearn something. I like games that you can just pick up, sit down in front of, and get going.

Sid Meier

Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.

Charles Mingus

Everything in the process of creation proceeds from the simple to the more complex. Every mechanical or electronic device, regardless of its complexity, operates according to a very few simple and easily understood principles. It follows that the universe should also comply with the same pattern, regardless of its near infinite complexity.

Joseph H. Cater

Back to Top




SOS Syndrome (Same Old Sh Stuff)


SOS Fixes

Make a technical contribution; innovate, don't emulate.

David Packer

INTERVIEWER: What kind of skills or philosophy must a game designer have to be successful?

IWATANI: You must understand people's souls (kokoro) and be creative enough to imagine things that can't be thought or imagined by others. You must be compelled to do something a little bit different than the rest of the crowd and enjoy being different. You must also be able to visualize the images that will make up the game, and you shouldn't compromise with the first easy idea that comes to mind. In the last analysis, you must enjoy making people happy. That's the basis of being a good game designer, and leads to great game design.

Toru Iwatani

From the book Programmers at Work by Susan Lammers

People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things.

Buckminster Fuller

If you take away the fancy graphics of today's games, most of the time you're left with a shell of a game that has been done to death a million times.

Leonard Herman from a Digital Press quote page

To me, if you have nothing new and cool to bring to the table, then there is no sense in designing a game. Regrettably, about 80% of the video game business involves clone products and cheesy licensed titles. These are the too-numerous to mention titles that no one remembers once the ad budget runs out. Life is too short to waste on me-too efforts. If you are just doing it for the money, and you can't get even get yourself psyched about your project, then it's time to move on to something fresh. Why waste irreplaceable time in life just making money, when the alternative is having some fun exploring the unknown? Money can be made later, but time is lost forever.

Eugene Jarvis from a Halcyon Days interview

If I see another game that involves a kidnapped princess, queen, king or other royal family member, I'll scream. In the same vein, I think the karate genre has been done to death.

Andy Eddy

VideoGames & Computer Entertainment Magazine, April 1989 (page 6)

For me the retrogaming movement is more than just nostalgia of misty eyed Gen X'ers. It's a reaction to the current graphical overkill, the simulation obsessed gaming environment of the late 90s. In our quest for absolute graphical realism, we have forgotten the basics of gaming. Look at "Virtua Fighter 3" vs. "Virtua Fighter 2." Unless you are a proctologist, you can't find a dimes' worth of difference in the gameplay. It is clear that the design team focused on the beautiful water effects, facial expressions, awesome backdrops, and 400 polygon, fully rendered loin-cloth animations. Have we as game designers become mere interior decorators, spending months on the reflection mapping of candlelight, or loin-cloth motion capture? Have we forgotten the essence of gaming which is to present the player with novel and original challenges? Once you've seen the interior decoration, there's no need to come back. You need a game in there.

Eugene Jarvis from a Halcyon Days interview

If you have SOS Syndrome, remember to have the bad guys, bonus items, bonus areas, and other things in different places each time the game is played. No matter how unoriginal your game is, at least it will be tolerable.

Duane Alan Hahn

I'm turning into one of those old geezers who is always ranting on incessantly about how much better everything was when he was a kid. People have these awesome toys now! Real computers! Amazing graphics, speed, memory, everything. And what are they doing with them? Mostly sideways-scrolling run-and-jump platform games, shooters, and the latest "Karate Champ" clone.

Marc Goodman from a Halcyon Days interview

Games haven't gotten better, they've just gotten more pixels.

David Lubar from his web site

Back to Top






Gameplay Article

If Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 Was Released Today

Game Design: Raising the Bar

Game Design with Will Wright

A good game has to have a fun core, which is a one-sentence description of why it's fun.

Paul Reiche III

Compute Magazine, January 1992

What is gameplay? Gameplay is simply the actions a player is allowed to perform in a game. If those actions are enjoyable and the controls are intuitive, you have the most important ingredients of a great game.

Duane Alan Hahn

The most common mistake of modern games is that they mistake setting for game design. A great plot does not make a great game. Nor does a great player model or animation engine. These merely provide contextual support for the game's reward system. If the rest of the game design is broken, a multi-million dollar investment in setting will still fail to produce an enjoyable game.

Daniel Cook from Evolutionary Design

'Interactive' shouldn't mean that you get to do something whenever the game designer decides you've sat there long enough twiddling your thumbs.

Duane Alan Hahn

Though balancing an original game is a hideous amount of work, cloning a game has its own pitfalls.

When an original game is created in an iterative fashion, each iteration builds upon the past iterations. The rules begin to support each other in subtle unexpected ways. It's almost like you are building a pyramid, with each additional level supported intimately the rules below.

When you clone a game, you look at the obvious rules of the game and implement them. However, the subtle interactions of the rules are not immediately obvious and are therefore not implemented. These interactions are lost, and the emergent gameplay is destroyed. It's as if you made a plaster cast of a digital watch, painted it exactly the same, and then wondered why it didn't tell time.

Daniel Cook

We used to spend so much of our time on game play and today's games seem to put too much emphasis on graphics and sound. It's the game play that makes a game fun, sometimes they forget that.

Larry Kaplan

I personally object to episodic games where you play one screen of Space Invaders and one screen of Breakout and one screen of Galaxian and one screen of this and one of that. To me, that's not a game. It's just taking five bad games, putting them together, and calling them one good game. I'm philosophically against that.

Eugene Jarvis

Joystick Magazine, September 1982

I'm constantly amazed at how many games are developed—even at some of the biggest and most established game companies—by teams that have no one responsible for the actual game. There are artists, programmers, musicians, and a producer to coordinate them all, but no one actually concentrating on the business of making sure that the interactive experience is as rewarding as it can possibly be. No one thinking about how it will actually feel to play the game. Instead, the actual "gameplay" will be added at the last minute, when all the graphics are ready. Almost as an afterthought.

It's like these developers are trying to invent chess and have created a superb, glossy-looking board and a whole new set of exciting pieces and then sit back and say, "Look! Look at his new board game we've made! Look at these shiny pieces and this state-of-the art board! What a great game this is!" But they haven't thought about how the game is played. They haven't thought about what pieces can move in what directions. They haven't thought about how these pieces then interact with each other. They haven't developed a set of rules. In short, they haven't thought about the actual game itself.

Neil West from The Way Games Ought to be...

Next Generation Magazine, October 1997

Many people in the business today seem to be more interested in making movies than in making games.

Tim Skelly from a Halcyon Days interview

Re: "Myst"

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. Non-interactive graphical wallpaper can be very beautiful, but after a few seconds I get bored. I want action. Contrived challenges like puzzles make me feel very puny and stupid. I don't play games to be anally retentive, I want conflict and action.

Re: "Wing Commander"

Mind-numbing sequences of pre-rendered storyline which have nothing to do with the game action are bogus. First you watch a bad movie, then you play a game that's even worse. You should play the story, not watch it! It's obvious that the FMV sequences had ten times the budget than the game did. Why didn't they put the money into the interactive game design? The whole thing reeks of a cheap bait and switch.

Eugene Jarvis from a Halcyon Days interview

Back to Top




Programming and Game Design

Sometimes you just need to have the confidence and the belief in the fact that you're going to pull it off and you just keep going forward every day and you don't allow the self-doubt or any doubt or even a shadow of a doubt to enter your mind because you just have to keep going forward.

Barrie M. Osborne (adapted)

The End of All Things documentary on #ad The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) DVD

First you write down your goal; your second job is to break down your goal into a series of steps, beginning with steps which are absurdly easy.

Fitzhugh Dodson

I have a a design philosophy that can be summed up in one sentence: “Make it work reliably and fast.” This sentence can be broken down into the basic steps of a project:

  1. Make it.
  2. Make it work.
  3. Make it work reliably.
  4. Make it work reliably and fast.

The important thing is to approach a project in order. For instance a common mistake is to try to optimize a design (making it “fast”) before you’ve laid down a foundation that works reliably. I tend to beat up on my developers if they are trying to find “clever” ways to optimize a design before they have the thing built, working, and bombproof. Usually they will miss a reliability issue while trying to cut corners and can waste a ton of time.

Donald R. Lebeau

Many drops make a bucket, many buckets make a pond, many ponds make a lake, and many lakes make an ocean.

Percy Ross

Woody Allen said "Eighty percent of success is showing up." That seems to apply to just about everything, including programming. Even if you barely know what you’re doing, there is some kind of magic in 'showing up.' All you have to do is work on your program. That simple action can have an almost supernatural effect. Your subconscious mind will start to bubble and amazing things will happen.

Duane Alan Hahn

You can get all the advice you want and read all the books you want, but what you've got to do is stand at the computer like I did from day one and say, "What can this stupid little thing do?" You've got to try little things out and make a million mistakes. But the great part about a home computer is you can do whatever you want and you aren't going to blow anything up.

Gary Kitchen from an AGH Library article

The best way to move game design forward is simply to develop, design, and construct a game. And make sure you finish it. No matter how bad, how simple, how slow your finished product is, you will learn an immense amount simply by building a game on your own.

Read, experiment, design, develop, play, and most important of all, have fun. In the end, having fun is what games are all about.

Ben Sawyer (adapted)

From #ad The Ultimate Game Developer's Sourcebook

Even if your first game doesn't turn out the way you'd like, it can give you ideas for other games.

Christopher Chance

K-Power Magazine, April 1984

We have a good idea where the game is going and what it will look like at the beginning, but there's a lot of fine-tuning that can only be done after the game has started to take concrete form.

The design is not something cast in stone that has to be followed to the letter—it's more of a guideline.

Jon Freeman

Compute Magazine, February 1985

There are cases where you design something that looks good on paper and there's only one small part of it that's fun. You have to focus on that and throw the rest away.

Brent Iverson

The last 10% of game design is really what separates the good games from the great games. It's what I call the clean-up phase of game design. Here's where you make sure all the elements look great. The game should look good, feel good, sound good, play good.

Garry Kitchen

Garry Kitchen's GameMaker Manual

Ideas are cheap. A dime a dozen, as they say. It's the implementation that's important! The trick isn't just to have a computer game idea, but to actually create it!

Scott Adams

K-Power Magazine, June 1984

The concept for PITFALL took less than 10 minutes. The difficult part was sitting at the computer, for over 1,000 hours, and making it happen.

David Crane from a Digital Press quote page

Learn how to program and play lots of games. If you find yourself capable of writing a game, someday you'll be capable of writing a really good game. My dad's a writer, and when you ask him how to learn to write, he says, "write." So basically, do it and keep doing it until you get good.

Fred Haslam

From #ad SimCity 2000: Power, Politics and Planning by Nick Dargahi and Michael Bremer

Take the resources you have and use them in an original way.

Duane Alan Hahn

Very few programmers are able to create a big hit on their first or second attempt. It takes time to build the skills required. So start simple (at the bottom), write a game you are capable of doing, and work your way up to the top. After you create one game, take a short break, then make your next game. Each time you'll know a little more than you did before.

Ben Sawyer (adapted)

From #ad The Ultimate Game Developer's Sourcebook

A computer is a computer and it only works in one way. If something new comes up, it's cute, but no more than that, because it's something the computer has always been able to do; you just didn't discover it before. It's like finding a penny under the couch, it's always been there, but it's cute to discover.

Bob Whitehead (adapted)

I wrote my first game on a remote terminal using APL/360 as the language. My first microcomputer game emulated a complete tank war game on a home-brew system I built that had a whopping 4K of memory and a 512-byte operating system. The point is, a good writer need not blame his tools. He'll make do!

Scott Adams

K-Power Magazine, June 1984

When I design an adventure game, I start by telling a story. I bring together a plot, detailed characters, and a conflict. Then I allow for multiple paths through the story. Finally, I add puzzles.

In a simulation, I start with an environment or system that I can model mathematically in a realistic way. That means I have to know almost everything there is to know about each element of the system I'm modeling before I ever begin. Each building in Outpost, the fusion reactor for example, functions as a miniature, simplified version of the real thing.

Bruce Balfour

From #ad Outpost: The Official Strategy Guide

Even though it's fun to crawl inside a computer and play with its potential, it's really important to look at other aspects of your life as well. That's where ideas for programs will come from.

Marcia Burrows

K-Power Magazine, April 1984

Right now we have talent and tools, but soon we will have talented tools. New intelligent software will help game developers speed up the process like never before.

Duane Alan Hahn (2005)

Game development makes a great hobby. I also think in the future, with engines, tools, and books on game development becoming commonplace, that more artists, writers, and just plain creative people will start to produce more games for people to play simply because they enjoy doing it. For a growing number of people, constructing cool software is like building a neat model airplane; it's just a craft that takes a lot of skill but provides even more enjoyment in return.

Ben Sawyer (adapted)

From #ad The Ultimate Game Developer's Sourcebook

We have pretty much passed the period where hobbyists could put together a game that would have commercial prospect. It's much more difficult to break in, much less stay in. Right now, in November 1984, I would discourage anyone. If you want to do a game, do it for fun, but don't try to do game designs to make any money. The odds are so much against the individual that I would hate to wish that heartbreak on anyone.

Chris Crawford

Compute Magazine, February 1985

Everyone who has a computer fancies himself a game designer, just as everyone with a guitar wants to be a rock star. There is nothing wrong with that if you remember that success is a long, hard road.

David Crane

K-Power Magazine, April 1984

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The best work never was and never will be done for money.

John Ruskin

Back to Top




Alternatives to Dying and Restarting


Pages About Restarting

The longer the player plays without a break, the more we build up his sense of the reality of the world. Any time he dies or has to restart from a saved game, the spell is broken.

Alternate paths, recoverable errors, multiple solutions to the same problem, missed opportunities that can be made up later, are all good.

Jordan Mechner

Next Generation Magazine, January 1997


Consider, for example, the case of a room full of poison gas. The way to get through the room is to give the command HOLD BREATH before entering. If the character has no reason for holding his breath except that he choked to death in that room the last time he played, his actions become illogical.

However, things can be kept reasonable if the description of the previous room states that wisps of green mist are coming from under the door. Giving the command SMELL MIST might elicit a stronger warning, and then it would make sense that the character should take precautions. The point isn't that a really good player should be able to get through the adventure on the first try, but that the character should stay within the bounds of the game's reality.

Gary McGath

From #ad COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games

If a game is so frustrating that it makes you angry enough to throw your controller, that means the game designer is no better than a drug dealer. Many arcade game designers used frustration as a way to get you addicted so you'd keep plopping quarters into the machine. It's a harmful trick that most game designers continued to use when they made games for home consoles.

If you start to play a game and you see that the game designer is using frustration to get you hooked, quit playing if you value your physical/mental health and your relationships. A video game is supposed to be fun. If a game designer's malicious 'challenges' make you want to throw something or punch a hole in a wall, that's not a sign you are having fun. It's a clue that you are being victimized by misguided or even venomous game designers who want to stuff their pockets full of cash at the expense of your health.

Duane Alan Hahn

I offer the following design criterion for your consideration: Any game that requires reloading as a normal part of the player's progress through the system is fundamentally flawed. On the very first playing, even a below-average player should be able to successfully traverse the game sequence. As the player grows more skilled, he may become faster or experience other challenges, but he should never have to start over after dying.

Indeed, this raises a new question: should we banish death from our games? Why must we kill the player when we all know perfectly well that he will merely reload game? Why should we force the tedious process of reloading on him? And why should we require the even more tedious task of frequent saves? Why not use the computer to handle the tedious tasks? If the player makes a mistake, then we automatically take him back to the most recent convenient starting point and let him try again. The result in terms of game play is exactly the same, except that the player no longer has to deal with the petty issues of file management. Isn't that what computers were made for?

Chris Crawford from an Erasmatazz article

You're not making a quarter gobbling arcade game so why be lazy and use the same old frustrating "Die and Remember" style of game making? I talked to one D & R game designer about a game he made that had no save or password feature and he said that he likes that kind of game because it's challenging and makes him feel good when he beats the game like someone would when they climb a mountain. He must not understand that when people climb a mountain and slip a few inches, they don't have to go back down to the bottom of the mountain and start all over again. They just keep climbing.

Even having a save feature can be worthless if you make it part of the game. Making people get to a save point or any other lame thing is just stupid. People have lives and should be able to save their game at any time. It's a courtesy. It shows you have respect for the lives of your players.

Sometimes people have to stop playing your Earth shattering game to do something in the real world. It's not fun to almost make it through a difficult level and die right before you can save your place.

Most players don't yell, "Oh boy! I get to do that all over again! What a great challenging game! I could go out to dinner or see a movie with my family tonight, but I get to stay home instead and play this level over and over again until I can save it! If I lose all my lives before I can save my game I'll have to finish this level plus the three others before it, this is great fun! The game designer has turned me into his trained monkey, whee! Thank you, oh god of programming! Please punish me some more! Maybe next time instead of making a game, you could just beat me with a porcupine!"

Duane Alan Hahn

You may be proficient at the first ten levels of a game, but if you have to keep playing through them just to get to the eleventh, it gets discouraging. Discouragement has no place in gaming, in my book.

Andy Eddy (adapted)

An important feature that I look for is a computer game should not be written such that Real Life takes a back seat.

When playing a game it is important it allow some way to pause/save to handle a Real Life interruption. Or write the game so that simply walking away from it is not devastating to your accomplishments to date. I.e. I don't want to have to worry about dying because I had to answer the phone.

A game that is not written this way will make me rude and hard to live with. Not a good thing in my mind at all. I have learned to avoid these types of games with a passion.

Scott Adams

If you talk to the average game designer, you'll probably get the impression that his favorite brand of fun is the satisfaction of overcoming a difficult challenge. That type of 'fun' seems to be the only thing most video game designers have known how to give us over the years and it's no wonder since many game designers have been programmers and that's what programmers love. Because of the way they are wired, it seems many game designers can't imagine any other kind of fun and most gamers have been thoroughly flooded for so long with that brand of 'fun' that it's hard for them to realize that they have been brainwashed into thinking that's what games are supposed to be like. Many gamers have video game Stockholm syndrome and they don't even know it.

Duane Alan Hahn

Back to Top




Play is Not a Waste of Time (Video Games Can Be Good for You)


Game Benefits

William Davis - Germs, Muscle, and Pac-Man

This William Davis, MD video says that rapid processing of multiple simultaneous sensory inputs is good for your brain.


Can Videogames Actually Be Good For You?

"Today it is evident that video games can be beneficial to players in a number of ways."


Why Video Games Make You Smart (No Kidding!)

". . . games help your brain learn how to think by forcing you to weigh evidence, analyze situations, consult your long-term goals and make a decision."


Action-Based Video Games Enhance Visual Attention

"Players can process visual information more quickly and can track 30 percent more objects than nonplayers."


6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind


Video games 'good for you'


Fire Up That Game, Boy


Video Game to Help Correct Lazy Eye Disorder

Can Video Games Make You Smarter?

I took the view that a game player was not playing the machine but was playing me. Depending on who I thought I was playingthe target marketI would come at you with different pieces of my technology arsenal. I would try and get into your head to challenge, tease, and test you. The objective was not to beat you but to take you for an emotional ride that would leave you totally wasted at the end, your mind and body spent. I have to laugh when I hear parents complaining that their kids play too many video games. They're not playing the machines, they're in a mind meld with the game designers. That is and was the rush for me. The technology, yes, the doing what no one has done before, but to be engaged mentally with millions of people all over the world is what kept me hard charging for four years.

Ed Averett from a Halcyon Days interview

It should be noted that children's games are not merely games. One should regard them as their most serious activities.

Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

In 1984, I began teaching via games and simulations. I always encouraged adult students to look at games as reflecting back to what they know, and what they needed to learn. Most importantly, a game reflects back on one's behavior. It's an instant feedback system. Instead of the teacher lecturing you, the game is feeding back a personalized lecture, custom made just for you.

Robert T. Kiyosaki

Play is supposed to be the opposite of work, but most video games are just jobs with a little bit of fun thrown in. These games can leave players feeling abused, frustrated, and overly aggressive. What your players need is freedom from competition and aggravation. Give your players a place to play where they don't have to win anything. Let them have fun without having to follow a bunch of rules. Give your players a chance to overcome challenges that have many solutions. Your game can either irritate or alleviate. Which would you rather do? If you want to add to the happiness of your players, give them freedom.

Duane Alan Hahn

Bundle up all the elements of a good game and give them a vigorous shake. What sifts through is a special kind of growth that comes from having a good time.

"Fun is not a fatuous activity," says Dan Bunten. "Fun is the meter on your emotional state. Fun is the summary feeling that you've got, but what's contributing to that are unexpected opportunities for growth."

According to Bunten, fun takes on an important role as an indispensable part of our lives. "It's a characteristic of intelligent species to engage in activities for which there seems to be no reward," he says.

"As a culture, we class those activities as play. Those are things that don't have any extrinsic reward. The reward is all intrinsic."

He explains why we need fun, "As intelligence rises, the need for stimulation also rises," he says. "For every brain, there is an optimum level of arousal that your brain wants to get to." If your brain doesn't reach that level during the day, you've got to play. By consuming your daily quota of stimulation, you promote your psychological and spiritual growth. You can also expand your intellectual capacity. "Some things have a certain amount of depth that pushes you, makes you think a little deeper than you have, makes you study a little more, makes you connect with things outside of the game environment."

According to Bunten, when you become completely absorbed by a game that pushes you to your intellectual edges, you feel like what you've done is more deeply significant than what you would have done otherwise. He asserts, "Because of the richness of the environment, the connection to outside, real-world experiences, you come away with a more profound experience than you would have had without those elementseven if the entertainment value is equivalent."

Good games are good for you, by Bunten's account. Fun is a vitamin for the mind, essential nourishment for your intellect. Or perhaps Reiche comes closer to the truth when he says, "A good computer game is pretty much the same thing that games were always meant to be: something to wile away some time with."

But whatever your rationale, whatever your excuse, don't worry. A little fun never hurt anybody.

Heidi E. H. Aycock

Compute Magazine, January 1992 (page 98)


Interesting Subjects


In Case You Didn't Know


Trump's Jab = Bad

Did you know that Trump's rushed experimental rona jab has less than one percent overall benefit? It also has many possible horrible side effects. Some brainwashed rona jab cultists claim that there are no victims of the jab, but person after person will post what the jab did to them or a family member on web sites such as Facebook and Twitter and they'll be lucky if they don't get banned soon after. Posting the truth is “misinformation” don't you know. Awakened sheep might turn into lions, so powerful people will do just about anything to keep the sheep from waking up.


Check out these videos:

Best of Sped Up and Edited Tennessee House of Representatives Health Subcommittee Hearing Room 2 (March 1, 2022)

Full Video of Tennessee House of Representatives Health Subcommittee Hearing Room 2 (The Doctors Start Talking at 33:28)



H Word and I Word = Good

Take a look at my page called The H Word and Beyond. You might also want to look at my page called Zinc and Quercetin. My sister and I have been taking those two supplements since summer of 2020 in the hopes that they would scare away the flu and other viruses (or at least make them less severe).



B Vitamins = Good

Some people appear to have a mental illness because they have a vitamin B deficiency. For example, the wife of a guy I used to chat with online had severe mood swings which seemed to be caused by food allergies or intolerances. She would became irrational, obnoxious, throw tantrums, and generally act like she had a mental illness. The horrid behavior stopped after she started taking a vitamin B complex. I've been taking #ad Jarrow B-Right for many years. It makes me much easier to live with.



Soy = Bad

Unfermented soy is bad! “When she stopped eating soy, the mental problems went away.” Fermented soy doesn't bother me, but the various versions of unfermented soy (soy flour, soybean oil, and so on) that are used in all kinds of products these days causes a negative mental health reaction in me that a vitamin B complex can't tame. The sinister encroachment of soy has made the careful reading of ingredients a necessity.



Wheat = Bad

If you are overweight, have type II diabetes, or are worried about the condition of your heart, check out the videos by Ken D Berry, William Davis, and Ivor Cummins. It seems that most people should avoid wheat, not just those who have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. Check out these books: #ad Undoctored, #ad Wheat Belly, and #ad Eat Rich, Live Long.



Negative Ions = Good

Negative ions are good for us. You might want to avoid positive ion generators and ozone generators. Whenever I need a new air cleaner (with negative ion generator), I buy it from A plain old air cleaner is better than nothing, but one that produces negative ions makes the air in a room fresher and easier for me to breathe. It also helps to brighten my mood.



Litterbugs = Bad

Never litter. Toss it in the trash or take it home. Do not throw it on the ground. Also remember that good people clean up after themselves at home, out in public, at a campsite and so on. Leave it better than you found it.



Climate Change Cash Grab = Bad

Seems like more people than ever finally care about water, land, and air pollution, but the climate change cash grab scam is designed to put more of your money into the bank accounts of greedy politicians. Those power-hungry schemers try to trick us with bad data and lies about overpopulation while pretending to be caring do-gooders. Trying to eliminate pollution is a good thing, but the carbon footprint of the average law-abiding human right now is actually making the planet greener instead of killing it.


Watch these two YouTube videos for more information:

CO2 is Greening The Earth

The Climate Agenda

Back to Top



Read these quotes and any adapted quotes at your own risk. (An adapted quote is a quote I have edited in some way to make it clearer or shorter so I can understand it better.) View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.


Home Inventions Quotations Game Design Atari Memories Personal Pages About Site Map Contact Privacy Policy Tip Jar